United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (R. Doc. 3)
filed on April 9, 2018. The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 6).
about February 6, 2018, Michael and Rene Medine
(“Plaintiffs”) filed their “Petition for
Insurance Benefits, Penalties and Attorney Fees” in the
23rd Judicial District, Ascension Parish, Louisiana, naming
as defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
(“State Farm”). (R. Doc. 1-2 at 4-5,
“Petition”). Plaintiffs allege that they own
residential property in Ascension Parish that is insured by
State Farm, and that they filed a claim with State Farm
seeking policy benefits for hail damage caused to their roof
by a tornado. (Petition ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiffs assert
that they “sent itemized repair estimates and
statements from contractors verifying the hail damage on
several occasions beginning in September 2017.”
(Petition ¶ 4). Plaintiffs assert that “State Farm
refused to pay damages and failed to investigate damages to
the residence next door making” its actions
“arbitrary and capricious” in violation of Title
22 of the Louisiana Insurance Code. (Petition ¶ 5).
Plaintiffs seek recovery of “insurance benefits”
as well as “attorney fees, penalties and all
sanctions” allowed under Louisiana law. (Petition
March 14, 2018, State Farm removed this action asserting that
the Court can properly exercise diversity jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1332. (R. Doc. 1). In the Notice of Remand,
State Farm claims that the amount in controversy is satisfied
based upon the contractor estimate for claimed repair costs
in excess of $50, 000 in addition to the penalties and
attorney fees sought under Louisiana law. (R. Doc. 1 at 2).
State Farm filed an Amended Notice of Removal clarifying that
there is complete diversity because Plaintiffs are citizens
of Louisiana and State Farm is a citizen of Illinois. (R.
April 9, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Remand
asserting that the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction because
the amount in controversy requirement is not satisfied. (R.
Arguments of the Parties
support of remand, Plaintiffs argue that the amount in
controversy requirement is not satisfied in light of their
affidavit dated April 9, 2018 (R. Doc. 3-2), which asserts
that their claims do not exceed $75, 000, and an
“Irrevocable and Binding Stipulation” dated April
6, 2018 (R. Doc. 3-3), which asserts that Plaintiffs will not
accept an award exceeding $75, 000. (R. Doc. 3-1).
opposition, State Farm argues that the amount in controversy
was satisfied at the time of removal. (R. Doc. 6). State Farm
concedes that the amount in controversy is not facially
apparent. (R. Doc. 6 at 3). State Farm submits evidence,
however, that prior to filing the Petition, Plaintiffs
submitted an estimate of $57, 150 for repairs to the roof of
their house and shed, and that the applicable deductible on
the underlying policy is $4, 809. (R. Doc. 6-1). In light of
this evidence, State Farm argues that any ambiguity regarding
the amount in controversy requirement is satisfied as
Plaintiffs are seeking to recover at least $52, 341 under the
policy (in light of the deductible), as well as bad faith
penalties under La. R.S. 22:1892 up to $26, 170.50, and an
unstated amount of attorney's fees. (R. Doc. 6 at 3-4).
Finally, State Farm argues that the post-removal submissions
by Plaintiff do not deprive the Court of diversity
jurisdiction. (R. Doc. 6 at 5-7).
Law and Analysis
defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a
State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
When original jurisdiction is based on diversity of
citizenship, the cause of action must be between
“citizens of different States” and the amount in
controversy must exceed the “sum or value of $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)-(a)(1). Subject matter jurisdiction must exist at the
time of removal to federal court, based on the facts and
allegations contained in the complaint. St. Paul
Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253
(5th Cir. 1998) (“jurisdictional facts must be judged
as of the time the complaint is filed”). Remand is
proper if at any time the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
removal is sought on the basis of diversity jurisdiction,
then “the sum demanded in good faith in the initial
pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in
controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). If, however,
the “State practice . . . permits the recovery of
damages in excess of the amount demanded, ” removal is
proper “if the district court finds, by the
preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
exceeds [$75, 000].” 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c)(2)(A)(ii)-(B). In Louisiana state court, plaintiffs
are generally prohibited from alleging a specific monetary
amount of damages sought in their petitions, and are required
to state whether there is a “lack of jurisdiction of
federal courts due to insufficiency of damages.” La.
Code Civ. P. art. 893(A)(1).
burden of proof is on the removing defendant to establish
that the amount in controversy has been satisfied.
Luckett v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 171 F.3d 295, 298
(5th Cir. 1999). The defendant may make this showing by
either (1) demonstrating that it is facially apparent that
the claims are likely above $75, 000, or (2) setting forth
facts in controversy that support a finding of the
jurisdictional minimum. Id. If the defendant can
produce evidence sufficient to show by a preponderance that
the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
threshold, the plaintiff can defeat diversity jurisdiction
only by showing to a legal certainty that the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75, 000. See,
e.g., St. Paul Mercury ...